Saturday morning randomness

Yesterday I watched my niece graduate from Osteopathic Medicine school. This demanding little girl has grown into a lovely, smart, funny and oh-so-appreciative young doctor. The graduation wasn’t too different from all the other ones I’ve attended, and the graduates didn’t appear much different from those I’ve walked the stage with, yet there was something else there. These young people were being conferred the recognition of their readiness to take care of patients, to save their lives, and tto care for them when they can’t be saved. This degree has come after at least eight years of college – a Bachelors degree and now this one. Many students had two B.A.s and some an M.A. as well. Now they are off to become residents somewhere, for another few years.

My niece has decided to become an OB-GYN, and will be delivering babies and taking care of women in two big county hospitals in Southern California. The Spanish she studied as an undergraduate has become a necessity, enabling her to communicate with her patients. She says that she can’t quite grasp that she is finally a doctor. When people ask her what she does, she just says she works in a hospital. Not everyone pushes far enough to find out what she actually does there, and that’s okay with her. Her profession carries a lot of baggage, it seems. While there is undoubtedly a good measure of pride involved (we’ve all met arrogant doctors, right?) there is also the fact that people treat doctors differently that they would if the same person was in almost any other profession.

Teachers are treated a little differently as well, I think. The reason for it is different, (seldom do we get asked how to conjugate a verb, and we definitely don’t receive the respectful awe a doctor receives) but the outcome is similar. If you say you teach English, people sometimes become uncomfortable, thinking you are judging the way they talk, or they tell you how much they hated English class in high school. Like you had anything to do with it, or like you care how they talk. Everyone has had teachers in their lives – some good ones and some who seemed to have chosen the career for the long summer vacations. Having attended school themselves, people feel qualified to expound on and judge the teaching profession. Everyone has an idea about how education could be done better; they complain about how greedy the teachers are, or how poorly the administrators manage the schools. The list of complaints is long, and the expression of appreciation paltry.

When I became an administrator two and a half years ago, I was overwhelmed at first by how demanding the job was. That was when I was Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction in a mid-size high school during testing and master schedule season. I had never worked such long hours. Then, I went to work at the District Office. While I had plenty to do there, the energy level was very different. It was so low-key in comparison to the school site. From the D.O I saw the work of a teacher more clearly than I’d seen it when I was in the classroom. Teachers work really hard for their money, and the time off – the little bit of it that isn’t spent doing continuing education – is necessary for survival. You absolutely need time to put yourself back together, to recenter yourself before you dive in again with a fresh crop of kids. But the expert former students out there miss this part.

Now I’m preparing to return to the classroom in the fall. I’ll make less money and work far harder than I do now, but I suspect I will feel far more satisfied at the end of the day than I have for a long time. I probably needed the downtime, but I’m ready to interact with kids again.


3 thoughts on “Saturday morning randomness

  1. Bonnie says:

    This post is filled with lots of “meat”, Lynn. Lots to think about.

    My nieces’ college graduation last week was also a surprise for me just to watch her small school of musicians rise up in Princeton Chapel. I wonder how she will use her degree.

    And then your move out of the classroom into administration. I tired that course as well and was happy to be back in the classroom although I didn’t move out for very long just to complete the administration degree. Just the internship was enough to get me right back with kids.

    I think that kids are more exciting than anything else, except maybe now working with teachers and the HVWP/NWP.

    It was great to follow you and then take myself along.
    How are you feeling about your return to the classroom with your administrator’s perspective now?

  2. lynnjake says:

    Good question, Bonnie. I initially left the classroom for two reasons. First, we had a new superintendent who I respected a great deal. I felt she was building her team and if she wanted me to be a part of it, I wanted to be there. I thought maybe I could be part of making some exciting changes in the district. The second reason was in the interest of getting my salary up to benefit my retirement, as I began teaching later in life. In some ways it broke my heart to leave the classroom, yet there was also a glimmer of light, the hope that I could help do something that would benefit lots of kids. For the first year, I felt I was headed in that direction, even though I was not permitted to do anything that had to do with English Learners. That was painful because they are who my teaching was dedicated to. But I had been asked to develop and support a district AVID program, and I was excited to be given that opportunity. This year I was given a different task which took an inordinate amount of time and gave little satisfaction. I had minimal time to work with AVID schools, and my only opportunities to work with English Learners were quickly rescinded, accompanied with some sort of reprimand. Over the course of time I felt increasingly unnecessary and unnoticed. Finally I was told that my job had been reduced to 40%. Now I’ve decided to try out middle school. I have never taught that level and am interested in doing so. On the other hand, now that I’ve begun, I think I would like to try site-based administration. I am currently designing the ELD program for the school I am going to, and have made placement recommendations for the 250 English Learners who will be enrolled there. Not exactly classroom based activities, but still.
    I know this doesn’t exactly answer your question, Bonnie, but it skirts it as well as I can. I am of mixed feelings. I look forward to being with kids again, and know I will love it. But I have an administrative perspective now that doesn’t let me just close my door and only deal with my own stuff. So I don’t know how it will be!

  3. Bonnie says:

    Sounds like you are able to combine the passion you have in the classroom Lynn, with that more global consideration for the larger sense of programing that will support student learning beyond one classroom. Sounds exciting. I wonder how your work with the NWP informs your sense of educational reform?
    I remember that when I was still teaching and facilitating our SI, the ideas from our workshops would explode in my brain and I couldn’t wait to get back into my classroom to incorporate them. As an administrator, wow, even more opportunities.

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